Group That Includes Magic Johnson Close to $6B Deal for Washington Commanders | VIDEOs

Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson

*(CNN) — A group that is led by Wall Street billionaire Josh Harris and includes NBA legend Magic Johnson is nearing a deal to buy the NFL’s Washington Commanders, a person familiar with the matter tells CNN.

If finalized, the sale would mark the end of the controversial ownership of the Washington franchise by embattled billionaire Daniel Snyder.

The group also includes Mitchell Rales, the billionaire co-founder of conglomerate Danaher, the source said.

The NFL, the Commanders, and Harris’s office would not comment on the matter.

News of the near deal was first reported by Sportico, which reported the team sold for $6 billion, a record for a North American sports franchise. The current record of $4.65 billion for the purchase of the NFL’s Denver Broncos was set just last year.

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Snyder purchased the team, then named the Washington Redskins for a reported $750 million in 1999. The team dropped its previous name in 2020 in the face of prolonged criticism. It adopted the Commanders name last year, after playing two seasons with the name Washington Football Team.

Forbes had previously estimated the value of the Commanders at $5.6 billion, making it the sixth most valuable football team, after the Dallas Cowboys, the New England Patriots, the Los Angeles Rams, the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears. The only franchises from other sports worth more than that $5.6 billion estimated value are the New York Yankees and New York Knicks.

The reported rise in value for the team to $6 billion would represent about a 9% annual return on the original purchase price.

Harris, the co-founder of Apollo Global Management, already owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and co-owns the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.

The Harris-led group officially placed a bid on the Commanders in late March, CNN previously reported. Johnson, the former Los Angeles Lakers superstar, joined the group last month.

Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos placed a separate $6 billion bid to buy the Commanders last month as well, a person familiar with the matter previously told CNN.

Snyder said last year that he is considering a sale of the team. At the time, Snyder and his wife, Tanya, announced that they hired Bank of America Securities “to consider potential transactions.”

The decision to seek a buyer came after DC Attorney General Karl Racine announced a lawsuit against Snyder, the team and the NFL, alleging they colluded to deceive DC residents about an NFL investigation into the team’s toxic workplace culture and allegations of sexual assault.

The lawsuit alleges those deceptive efforts aimed to keep fans in the dark and increase profits for the team. The lawsuit cites the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which gives the Attorney General broad authority to hold individuals or a company accountable for misleading customers.

Racine subsequently filed another suit for allegedly cheating ticket holders out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The complaint alleges that Pro Football Inc., the Snyder-led official owner of the Commanders, implemented a “decades-long unlawful scheme” to withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars in security deposits fans paid for season tickets and “converted that money into revenue for the Team, to use for its own purposes.”

In June of 2022, the House Oversight Committee also accused Snyder of fostering a “toxic workplace” and conducting “a shadow investigation to target his accusers, pin the blame on others, and influence the NFL’s own internal review.”

And an internal investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson in 2021 resulted in the NFL fining the Commanders $10 million and Snyder handing control of the franchise’s daily operations to his wife. Snyder has denied the allegations.

News of a possible sale was cheered by some of Snyder’s accusers Thursday.

“Today marks the end of a long, difficult chapter for all employees and fans of the Washington football organization,” read a statement from Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, two attorneys representing more than 40 former Washington Commanders employees. “We are proud of our many clients who made this moment possible — the brave women and men who came forward repeatedly and at great personal risk to expose the decades of sexual harassment and financial wrongdoing at the team. Their determination and perseverance forced this sale to happen.”

“We want to welcome the new owners and hope a new chapter can truly begin at the organization. We expect that the NFL now understands that such an abusive workplace for women is unacceptable,” the statement continued. “The NFL must be more vigilant and must ensure that owners are held to the same standards as all employers; sexual harassment is illegal and must not be tolerated.”

— CNN’s Chris Isidore contributed to this report

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